Periyar National Park

Nestled in the Cardamom Hill range to the south of the Western Ghats, Periyar is one of the most talked about wildlife sanctuaries in South India. This hilly tiger reserve embraces the Periyar river, which was dammed in 1895 by British Engineer Colonel J Pennyquick to supply water to Madurai and the adjoining forests were protected by the Maharaja of Travancore. The excess water flooded the area, forming a massive 26 sq km artificial lake. Dead tree stumps jutting out of the lake offer an excellent perch to Periyar's rich birdlife.

The Periyar Lake, located at the heart of the Periyar sanctuary, is the nucleus of the Tiger Reserve. Boat travel on the reservoir is the only means of transport and provides one of the most delightful methods of viewing elephants and the avi-fauna for which the park is known. Periyar is also home to many endangered animal species such as the Lion-tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Langur, Indian Spotted Chevrotain (the smallest of our deer), Malayan Giant Squirrel, Flying Squirrel, Slender Loris, unique flying snakes and lizards and the Dhole (Asiatic Wild Dog).

Lately, the Periyar park authorities have also initiated several community-based eco-tourism activities that include guided day treks, bamboo rafting and nature walks along the ranges and the Periyar Tiger Trail, with night camping inside the park. These walks are very rewarding for birdwatchers and are a good way to see the 160 species of butterflies identified at Periyar, of which 19 are endemics of the Western Ghats. A good time to visit is between October and April, especially the latter two months, when water levels are low and animals tend to spend more time near the lake. The grass too is short during this time, resulting in greater visibility.

Periyar harbours predators like the Tiger, Leopard, Jungle Cat and scavengers like the Striped Hyena. Otters, birds, fish and snakes inhabit the aquatic lake-shore belt, while Bonnet Macaque, Nilgiri Langur, Gaur, Tahr, Mouse Deer, Sambar and Barking Deer can be found in the adjoining forests. The water edge is also dominated by groups of Wild Boar wallowing in the mud and herds of Asiatic Elephant.

Over 320 species of birds have been recorded in Periyar which include rare ones like White-rumped Munia, Blyth's Pipit, Blue-eared Kingfisher, Pompadour Green Pigeon, Greater Painted Snipe, Black and Orange Flycatcher, Long-billed Leaf Warbler, winter visitors like the Cinnamon Bittern and the Sri Lanka Frogmouth, a nocturnal bird usually found in the moist forests of Periyar. Birds of prey like the White-bellied Sea Eagle are a common sight around the lake.

The typical habitat of Periyar is rolling and steep hills covered by tropical evergreen and semi evergreen forest on upper region and moist deciduous forest and marshy grasslands in the central part.

Fact sheet:

State: Kerala
Area: 777 sq. km (Combining Core and buffer forest)
Altitude: 100 to 2016 m above mean sea level
Vegetation: Moist deciduous
Water resources: Periyar and Mullayar rivers and Periyar Lake
Winter: December to January
Summer: April to May
Monsoon: End May to September
Rainfall: 2500 mm
Temperature: Min 15°C - Max 31°C

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